McGregor community recovers from tornado 'brick by brick' - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

McGregor community recovers from tornado 'brick by brick'

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McGregor, IA (WXOW) -

The storms on Wednesday night produced damaging winds and heavy rain. On Thursday morning, the National Weather Service is confirming the storms also produced a high EF1 tornado in McGregor, Iowa.

McGregor is a small community in the northeastern portion of Iowa. 842 people call that McGregor home. The Clayton County Sheriff's Office did not receive any reports of injuries or fatalities as the result of the tornado that ripped through Main Street.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Mayor: Tornado hit McGregor

"Nobody had any warning whatsoever," said Rob Shaw who has family living in McGregor.

Residents in McGregor tell News 19 that the tornado happened in a matter of minutes.

"It looks like what we would call a high end EF1 tornado," said Todd Shea, Warning Coordinator Meteorologist with the La Crosse National Weather Service. "So, we're looking at wind speeds in that 100 to 150 miles per hour or so."

"Buildings completely demolished, old buildings from the 1800s," said Shaw. "Bricks collapsed on three different vehicles. Trees down everywhere. You can't even get through the road."

The damage will impact the McGregor community for weeks and months to come. 

"You see this stuff all the time on TV, but when you actually see it in person--I don't have any words for it," Shaw said.

On Thursday morning, state law enforcement set up barricades on all routes to McGregor. Officers only let vehicles through if they had a certified reason to be there or proof of residence within the city. Emergency response crews said the fewer people inside the city limits, the easier damage clean up will be.

"At this time, our primary concern is keeping residents and first responders safe," said McGregor Mayor Harold Brooks. "We're trying to get things returned to normal as soon as possible."

The entire community is pitching in with the clean up efforts.

"A small community like this, everybody puts their lives on hold and tries to help their neighbor," Shaw said. "I think that's what small community is all about."

Buildings of historical significance were lost in the tornado. Residents said that even though those buildings cannot be replaced, they can be replicated to maintain the feel of the historic downtown. Crews will continue to rebuild McGregor one piece at a time.

"I just get this picture of brick by brick," Shaw said.

Clayton County Sheriff Mike Tschirgi said at least two McGregor residents have been displaced from the damage. Hundreds are without power for what could be anywhere from days up to one week. Those seeking relief from the heat and weather conditions can visit temporary shelters at St. Mary's Church in McGregor and the City Room in Marquette.

City officials plan to open McGregor for outside volunteers at a future time. Those interested in giving financial donations can visit any Central State Bank and label the donation for the tornado fund. For now, they emphasize that outside individuals should stay away and give local crews the chance to get a head start on clean up.

Mayor Brooks has instilled a city-wide curfew on Thursday night at 10 p.m. in the best interest of resident safety.

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